‘More robust response’ to horse meat scandal required

Supermarkets and food manufacturers should take steps to reassure customers over the quality and safety of food products or risk a widespread decline in confidence, according to the BRC, following the latest discovery that some Findus branded products contained up to 100 per cent horse meat DNA.

The Sun
The Sun front cover. Media rounds on horse meat DNA scandal.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has today (8 February) called for all beef products such as beef burgers, meatballs and lasagne to be tested to investigate the presence of horse meat. It is not clear exactly what is required of retailers and food manufacturers but it could affect a potentially “huge” number of products, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

While individual retailers such as Tesco and Morrisons have already taken steps to get their message out through press ads and online communications, a spokesperson for the BRC says there could be a need for an “informational and confidence building” drive from the broader retail and food industry to avoid the risk of a widespread fall in confidence.

“I don’t think there’s a wide spread decline in confidence in food products and there’s no reason there should be, but there’s a risk of it. Currently it’s the concern of affected brands but because it’s not confined to one brand informational and confidence building could be required on a broader scale,” he says.

At the time of writing the BRC was preparing an official statement on behalf of retailers while Findus had yet to publish an official statement and a spokesperson was unable to comment.

Catherine Brown, chief executive of the FSA, said in a statement: “Following our investigations into Findus products, the FSA is now requiring a more robust response from the food industry in order to demonstrate that the food it sells and serves is what it says it is on the label. We are demanding that food businesses conduct authenticity tests on all beef products.”

A major retailer could have up to 500 affected products, with each test costing up to £500.

Vegetarian brands such as Quorn and Linda McCartney are capitalising on the scandal as an opportunity to promote their meat-free products. Linda McCartney launched a new ad campaign, on 29 January. Although the ad campaign was already planned before the news of horse meat DNA affecting beef products surfaced a spokesperson for the brand says the “misfortune” of affected retailer has helped make people more aware of the meat-free alternatives available.

Morrisons, whose products have not been affected, has used press ads to highlight “it does things differently” to other supermarkets and that its ownership of farms and abattoirs means it has a high level of control over its supply chain. Yesterday (7 February) the supermarket launched its first ads starring Ant & Dec to highlight its focus on fresh foods and its trained butchers and fishmongers as of its efforts to show

The supermarket says sales of its fresh burgers have increased since the scandal hit while sales of frozen burgers have remained flat.

McDonald’s also used press ads to highlight the quality of its 100 per cent British beef after rival Burger King was forced to admit its burgers had been contaminated.

Tesco, the most high-profile retailer to be affected by the horse meat scandal, has used press ads to communicate the steps it is taking and CEO Philip Clarke took to the supermarket’s official blog last week to highlight the importance of consumer trust.

He said: “As a food retailer, customers must have confidence in the products we offer. Trust is essential. As a customer, you need to know that the food you buy and consume is what it says it is.
Trust is hard won and easily lost.

“The first step to rebuilding trust is honesty and transparency, and that is why we will continue to tell our customers everything we know and everything we are doing to stop anything like this happening again.”

The supermarket declined to comment further when asked for a response to the developments. 

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